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Home Course: Tommy Biershenk

Bob Gillespie Bob Gillespie
Bob is a former sports writer at Columbia’s The State newspaper. He enjoys golf at South Carolina’s 360-plus courses, and after a round, sampling craft beers from the Palmetto State’s breweries.
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South Carolina's Tommy Biershenk teeing off
Tommy Biershenk teeing off

Most golfers don't wait until age 38 to "find" themselves professionally. Then again, Tommy Biershenk isn't most golfers; two years shy of his 40th birthday, he was a 2012 PGA Tour rookie.

One of three golfing Biershenk brothers from the Spartanburg/Boiling Springs area, two of whom played at Clemson, Tommy has so far performed as if he belongs. Though he's earned just over $35,000 in his first month-plus, he made the cut in his first three tournaments, with a best-finish tie for 59th at the Sony Open in Hawaii, and shot a second-round 64 at the Humana Challenge.

He's waited a long time for his chance. But then, he says his favorite saying is "patience is a virtue," and his favorite book "The Power of Positive Thinking."

"I really don't feel like a rookie," said Biershenk, who played the developmental Nationwide Tour from 1995-2003 while also getting into several PGA Tour events, notably the 1998 B.C. Open and 1999 Buick Challenge. "I've got the experience and I'm comfortable with where I'm at. This is where I belong.

"It's hard to hear ‘rookie,' but I'm proud of it. My job now is to prove I'm prepared to mix it up with the best (players) in the world."

Confident words for a guy who, just five years ago, was ready to give up on his dream. He did, in fact, quit playing for a year, until he met Rickey Sullivan, director of instruction at The Ranch at Bulls Bay near Mount Pleasant, whom Biershenk credits not only for working on his golf swing but also his head.

"(Sullivan) helped me emotionally, teaching me to be more professional on the course. Rickey held my hand every step of the way." With that help, Biershenk tied for fifth at last December's PGA Tour Qualifying Tournament, aka "Q-school," to earn his 2012 exemption.

The odds against any rookie, much less a nearly 40-year-old one, are always long in professional golf. But, says Biershenk, "I look at (Tour veteran) Steve Stricker, and he's six years older than me and on top of his game, so that gives me hope.

"I've got a good caddie (J.D. Kennedy, who caddied for him on the eGolf and Nationwide tours) and all of Spartanburg behind me. It's a good feeling" - if not necessarily a familiar one.

Hometown: Spartanburg; lives in Boiling Springs.

Bio: Played four seasons at Clemson, graduating in 1997; competed on the Hooters, eGolf and Nationwide Tours, and also worked in golf cart sales and service; brother Robbie played at Spartanburg Methodist and competed on Golf Channel's "Big Break" reality series, now owner of Shanks Driving range; brother Nick played at Clemson, now golf coach at Limestone.

Highlights: Best Nationwide Tour finish was a tie for second at the Tour Oregon Classic in 2000; in 2011, twice finished T-4th (Panama CLARO Championship, Winn-Dixie Jacksonville Open); tied for third in the 2000 Samsung Canadian PGA Championship; won the 1999 Hooters Tour's Jackaroo Classic; worked as a disc jockey while at Clemson.

Where I play: "The Country Club of Spartanburg is where I play mainly - we have a group of eight that plays some good money games every Friday. (Hilton Head's) Harbour Town is a great course where you don't have to hit it far to score, and I've always enjoyed (Graniteville's) Sage Valley, and Bulls Bay (Awendaw), which I love, it's always fun. South Carolina has a lot of good golf courses, many within an hour of my home, such as (Greenville's) Chanticleer, a good track, a good test and always good shape.

"At Clemson, the Walker Course is where I practiced 2-3 times a week (and) about wore out the practice area; I especially like (the par-3) No. 17, the Tiger Paw hole, that's pretty cool. Boscobel (in Pendleton) has been around a long time; before they made changes, the green at No. 8 was almost impossible, such an extreme slope from back to front. We practiced a lot there, and it's a good test. You can make big mistakes out there.

"What made (coach Larry Penley) such a good coach, he sent us out to different courses, so we'd learn to play on different tracks. And South Carolina is an awesome place to grow up and play golf. We've got it all, the golf capital of the world."

Where I eat: "I like the Beacon Drive-In (in Spartanburg). In Greenville, P.F. Chang's is one of my favorites, good healthy food. When I'm craving pizza, Pizza Inn in Spartanburg is my place. There's Wade's in Spartanburg, a meat-and-three place, and it's really good: yeast rolls, sweet tea, fried chicken and 15-20 veggies on the buffet."

What I do for fun: "Not long ago, a friend took me dove hunting for my first time and I thoroughly enjoyed it. I did good, shot 6-7 doves. I just got a new shotgun from a buddy; he threw it down, called it a ‘big piece of junk,' told me to take it home because he couldn't shoot a thing with it. It's a 12-gauge, cost about $1,700.

"I love bass fishing, too. I've got a couple of ‘honey holes' that we hit, you can catch 3- to 5-pound bass, get a lot of action. I'm not a deer hunter, that's too boring for me.

"I really like riding 6-speed go-karts. A friend of mine, Andy Petry, who was crew chief for Dale Earnhardt, has a place up in Hendersonville, and we'll fly up there in a helicopter. Sometimes we go to Carolina Motor Sports Park in Kershaw. Now that is some fun, buddy. It's potentially dangerous (because) we run 80 mph on the backstretch. We wear helmet cams; next time I'm there, I'll take some videos and show you."

Bob Gillespie
Bob is a former sports writer at Columbia’s The State newspaper. He enjoys golf at South Carolina’s 360-plus courses, and after a round, sampling craft beers from the Palmetto State’s breweries.